Dropping the C-Anchors
As defined, political conservatives "seek to conserve the existing social order or to reinstate a social order from the past." I'm still trying to figure out how one can both maintain the existing social order AND reinstate a social order from the past. But that conumdrum is of intellectual curiosity only. Both ideas represent a lack of awareness about basic physics: time can neither stop nor reverse. Thus, one can neither stop the change that time's progress brings nor reverse it.
Time is a very slippery slope, and any travel along its path should be taken at the safest possible speed. It isn't possible to stop completely, nor is it wise to progress too swiftly. Attempting to stop completely, or to attempt to reverse progress against the motion of the forces of the universe, can only lead to disaster due to the buildup of those forces seeking its own level against the impedance.
For instance, take the Kansas 'intelligent' designers (please!). Such an anti-scientific stance against empirical knowledge in favor of religious faith ignores reality - something that even the Vatican won't do. Such an attitude against scientific knowledge recently caused five Amish children in Minnesota to contract polio and raised divisive questions among the small community. Once created, these divisions only grow, and the members of this community will drift apart as their earliest decisions evolve into the later ones on one side or the other. Once either path is chosen, there is no going back. It can't be reversed. Change has come to the existing community, and any attempt to reinstate the pre-polio society will necessarily fail.
But this isn't to say that there isn't a purpose for conservatism. To some extent, the conservative bias about liberals being wild-eyed purveyors of change has (only) an element of truth. Liberals do bring about major improvements to the existing community (as one commenter brought up in a recent comment thread), but they can only do so successfully if the conservatives also do their job - to challenge the assertions of the liberals (not that this makes these liberal assertions incorrect or invalid by doing so) in order to test their efficacy and certify their validity.
Conservatives need to change their view as to what their role in society is, but that can't happen as long as that view is solitary. One's self-interest has to be tied to the benefit of the community as a whole, and not solely to enhancing the value of one's investment portfolio. As Hillary Clinton attempted to point out in a much-maligned essay, it does take a village.
A better image of their societal role for conservatives to ponder is that of a sea anchor. Such a role would not - could not - impede progress in the stormy seas of change, for there is nothing to dig into to stop motion against it. Instead, as defined, "A sea anchor is typically utilised in heavy weather or storms, and it stabilises the vessel allowing it to ride out the worst of the storm by keeping the bow up into the wind."
The vessel is our world, the heavy weather is the evolution of the world's separate societies into a combined whole (which still allows for differences), and conservatism is the sea achor which keeps liberalism on a true course and stabilizes societies as they grow and adapt. It's the scientific way.
Throughout history, it has ever been thus, and no amount of religious-based ideology is ever going to change that fact - swear to God!